Author: Katie Hartman
- 1 Ottosdal, South Africa
- 2 The Klerksdorp Sphere
- 3 What is a Concretion
- 4 Claims From Fringe Groups are Unsubstantiated
- 5 References
Ottosdal, South Africa
Ottosdal is a small town in South Africa, that is the home of the Klerksdorp Sphere. Ottosdal is a farming community engaged in the growing of grains such as maize, sunflower, and peanuts. In addition, local farmers raise cattle, sheep, pigs, dairy cows and chicken. A major pyrophyllite mine lies near it on the farm Gestoptefontein.
Ottosdal has a relatively hot and dry climate. Summers are very hot and the very short winter is characterized by cold nights and mild to warm days. The average yearly rainfall is 21.6 inches, and occurs between October and April in the form of heavy thunderstorms. It only snows once a decade at most.
A major industry of the Ottosdal area is the pyrophyllite mines located on the farm Gestoptefontein. These mines produce a very high quality pyrophyllite, which is a phyllosilicate mineral composed of aluminium silicate hydroxide. The pyrophyllite is a metamorphosed clay. The clay was formed by the alteration of volcanic ash, which apparently accumulated at the bottom of a quiet body of water. It forms a dense, but soft light grey, or darker, fine-grained stone, which splits into well-defined slabs. Originally, pyrophyllite was quarried and locally used for tombstones and building stone and to carve ornaments and utensils such as pots, dishes and cases. Currently, it is milled and processed near where it is mined to produce material used for the production of a wide variety of products. They include acid-resistant lab ceramics, refractory bricks and linings, filler in paint, electrical insulation, boilermaker's chalk, chromic-acid purification pots, and crucibles used in the manufacture polycrystalline-diamonds.
The Klerksdorp Sphere
The Klerksdorp Sphere gets its name from a neighboring city museum, called the Klerksdorp Museum.
The objects can come in many different shapes, but they take on a general round shape. Some vague lines, or grooves, may be seen on the outer surface. These have not been machined by aliens but they display imprints of the fine layering present in the host rock in which they grew. 
The spheres range in size from .5cm to 10cm, with even latitudinal grooves on them. They were created in space between sediments, much like the way crystal can form extremely precise shapes.    
The spheres are made of either of hematite or wollastonite, mixed with minor amounts of hematite and goethite. The spheres found in unaltered pyrophyllite consist of pyrite. They are concretions formed in either volcanic sediments, ash, or both. What causes the groves is the formation process itself; the material the concretion forms in is softer than the concretion, and so when the softer material erodes away, all that’s left is the imprint it made.   The spheres show a non-granular, smooth surface and are typically dark, earthy-brown in color, typical of siderite (iron-carbonate), one of the most common minerals found in concretions. Some of them have a brassy, metallic sheen and are made up of pyrite (iron-sulphide) another very common concretion-forming mineral.   Paul V. Heinrich obtained five Ottosdal objects from Dr. Susan J. Webb of the University of the Witwatersrand and Allan Frazier of Online Minerals to examine. After being photographed, three of them were cut with a saw. A sample from one of the cut spheres was analyzed using petrographic techniques. Samples from two other objects were analyzed using X-ray diffraction techniques. In addition, a sample of pyrophyllite taken from the same mine as the objects was analyzed with petrographic and X-ray diffraction techniques.   The internal structure of three Ottosdal objects was determined by cutting them open. All three of these objects exhibit a radial structure, which breaks into concentric shells. They are clearly natural concretions. Internally, the concretions were found to be both porous and friable. One of two noticeably “grooved spheres”, which was cut in half, exhibited faint ghosts of flat laminations cross-cutting its radial structure. A prominent internal lamination was specifically associated with the external groove. The analysis of two Ottosdal objects by X-ray diffraction techniques, revealed that they consist of two different minerals; hematite and wollastonite. 
Paul V. Heinrich also did an examination of the five Ottosdal objects, in terms of their “hardness.” He found none of them to be harder than 4.0–5.0 on the Mohs scale (a rating of 7–8 is typical of hardened steel). 
What is a Concretion
Example of How a Concretion Forms
A thin layer of conglomerate (which is a coarse-grain pebbly deposit) is overlain by layers of volcanic lava, up to 2600 meters thick. During the outpouring of these lavas, there were “short” episodes when floods occured and sediments were deposited between the lavas. This particular sediment was made up of tuff (volcanic ash and debris). After it was deposited and covered by more rock, it became subjected to tremendous pressure and increases in temperature, so much so that the sediment became metamorphosed to a rock composed entirely of pyrophyllite. This is very fine-grained, resembling talc, but not as soft. It is in the pyrophyllite that the spheres are found.  
Archy Fantasies uses the metaphor of molding a candle with sand to explain how a concretion is made. They say “To make a sand candle the first thing you do is find some wet sand, then you press a shape into the sand, which is why it needs to be wet so it will hold its form. Next you pour melted wax into the mold you formed in the sand, add a wick, and let the wax harden. After the wax is all hard, you scoop it out of the sand (or wash away the sand with water), brush off the excess and you are left with the final product, a candle.” After you brush away the sand, there are little grooves left as an imprint in the wax from the sand, similar to that of the ring formations on the klerksdorp spheres. 
Other Examples of Concretions
The case of the Ottosdal objects is not unique. It appears that fringe groups often mistake concretions of various shapes for intelligently designed and manufactured artifacts. For example, the Moeraki Boulders of New Zealand, which are natural “cannonball” concretions, have been mistaken for the sail weights of Chinese junks. Natural concretions found by explorers on Seymour Island, Antarctica, were misidentified as artifacts.Concretions from the bottom of the Bay of Cambay (Khambat) have also been mistaken for ancient artifacts (Heinrich 2002). In a similar case, Kuban (2006) argues that an alleged shoe print mentioned by Cremo and Thompson (1993;1999) and other fringe archaeologists and creationists, as having been found in Triassic strata within Nevada, is “…most likely a broken ironstone concretion…” 
Claims From Fringe Groups are Unsubstantiated
Perfectly Spherical with Questionable Grooves
Marx (1996) reports that the Ottosdal objects have a hard concentric shell that exhibit “perfectly concentric grooves” that surround either a spongy substance or material resembling charcoal. Pope and Cairncross (1988) describe the objects as being “almost perfect spheres.” Barritt (1982) shows a three grooved Ottosdal Object that is clearly an ellipsoid. He also gives the dimensions of a specimen in the Klerksdorp Museum as being “exactly” 3.3 cm (1.3 inches) high and 4.0 cm (1.6 inches) long, which does not form a perfect circle. Barritt further contradicts himself and other fringe publications by quoting an anonymous mine official as stating that all of these objects are “oval” in shape. Jochmans (1995) also contradicts himself by describing them as “…metallic spheroids like flattened globes...” Marx (1996) notes that the Ottosdal objects, which he has observed, are not all spheres, but “some” of them are “oblong in form.” Webb and Frazier, exhibit a wide range of shapes including spheres, flattened spheres, discs, and clusters of two to four spheres grown together like soap bubbles. Although three objects are roughly spherical, they definitely are not “perfectly round” as various fringe group authors claim. 
The longitudinal grooves exhibited by some of the Ottosdal objects, as noted by Cairncross (1988), were caused by sediment laminations. The grooves in the concretions represent individual laminae within the host sediments. These laminae were slightly finer-grained than overlying and underlying sediments. As the concretion grew within the sediments, it grew at a slightly slower rate within these laminae than in adjacent layers,which resulted in the formation of the grooves. 
The spheres come in two types- one of solid bluish-white metal having a reddish tinge with embedded white flakes of fibers, the other is a hollow ball with a white spongy center.   Joseph Jochmans, a young-earth creationist, included the spheres in his list of “Top ten out-of-place artifacts” and described the objects as being composed of “manufactured metal” and a “nickel-steel alloy which does not occur naturally.” Clearly claiming that these are artificially made.  However, as stated above, it is proven that none of the spheres are made of metal.
Harder Than Steel
Roelf Marx, in his 1984 letter, says “they are found in pyrophyllite, which is a quite soft secondary mineral with a count of only 3 on the Mohs scale and was formed by sedimentation 2.8 billion years ago. However, the globes are very hard and cannot be scratched, even by hard steel.     Two things from this statement, some people will claim that the objects were placed there because the hardness of the spheres does not match that of the surrounding sediment. However, as stated above, it has been proved that the spheres have a Mohs count of 3-4, and the Mohs count of steel in 7-8. This clearly states that the spheres are not as hard as steel, and/or cannot be scratched by steel. Further proof against this claim, is the study Paul Heinrich did when he physically cut the spheres in half with just a regular saw.
One rumor that sparked up in the pseudo-archeology world was about a man who claimed to have taken one of these spheres to NASA, who reportedly told the man that the sphere could have only been made in zero-gravity because its balance was too perfect to have been created naturally. It has been proved that this never actually happened, and geologists have also tested a number of spheres that do not have perfect balance.    
Unconventional archaeologists clung to a quote by former curator of the Klerksdorp museum, Roelf Marx, said he “witnessed the spheres rotating on their axises by themselves, inside a vibration free display case”. When later interviewed about this claim, Marx said he was misquoted and explained that they “rotated precisely because of the numerous earth tremors generated by underground blasting in local gold mining.”  
Other Outlandish Claims
Elizabeth Klarer, a South African psychic and UFO enthusiast, said, “these circular, metal objects were unique. They were the remains of space ships that had landed in South Africa millions of years ago and became entrapped in the rock. If you sawed the sphere in half, it would reveal a microchip or optic disk with an encoded message from the aliens. This message would reveal all about space travel. And a ‘Chosen person’ would be able to read this information and use it to save the Earth.”  
Mrs. Brenda Sullivan, a South African representative of the Epigraphic Society of Arlington, speculated that the objects were artifacts and clear evidence of “a higher civilization, a pre-flood civilization about which we know virtually nothing. 
A letter from John Hund of Pietersburg, South Africa, provided an account, which remains unsubstantiated, of the alleged results of an examination of an Ottosdal Object by the California Space Institute, a multi-campus research unit of the University of California. The letter stated, that scientists at the California Space Institute tested an Ottosdal Object and concluded that its balance “ …is so fine, it exceeded the limit of their measuring technology…” and “…to within one-hundred thousandths of an inch from absolute perfection…” The implication of these alleged findings is that any known natural process cannot explain the formation of the Ottosdal Object. Further studying of this claim proved that it was false, and none of the spheres had “perfect balance.”
- Klerksdorp sphere. (2017, October 19). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klerksdorp_sphere
- Cairncross, B. (1998, March). “Cosmic cannonballs” a rational explanation. South African Lapidary Magazine , 30(1), 4-6.
- Klerksdorp Spheres. (2011, December 27). Retrieved from https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/klerksdorp-spheres
- Heinrich, P. V. (2008). The Mysterious “Spheres” of Ottosdal, South Africa. Reports,27, 28-33.
- The Klerksdorp Spheres of South Africa. (2016, February 01). Retrieved from http://strangebtrue.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-klerksdorp-spheres-of-south-africa.html
- The 10 Most Not-So-Puzzling Ancient Artifacts: The Grooved Spheres. (2012, April). Retrieved from https://archyfantasies.com/2012/04/02/the-10-most-not-so-puzzling-ancient-artifacts-the-grooved-spheres/
- Concretion. (2017, November 14). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concretion#cite_note-1
- Klerksdorp Spheres - Controversial And Out-Of-Place In Time Metallic Spheres From South Africa. (2017, April 08). Retrieved from http://www.messagetoeagle.com/controversial-and-out-of-place-in-time-metallic-spheres-from-south-africa/
- Childress, D. H. (n.d.). Ancient Metallurgy and Machines. In Technology of the Gods: The Incredible Sciences of the Ancients(pp. 87-88).
- MacIsaac, T. (2014, August). 2.8-Billion-Year-Old Spheres Found in South Africa: How Were They Made? Retrieved from http://www.ancient-origins.net/unexplained-phenomena/28-billion-year-old-spheres-found-south-africa-how-were-they-made-002018